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The Netherlands: not as liberal and emancipated as we think.

Many countries look to the Netherlands as the example of liberated thinking. A country where "live and let live", tolerance and a willingness to discuss (and embrace) everything from recreational Cannabis use to televised pornography is part of the fibre of the nation's national identity. Everything, it seems, but opening the corporate Old Boys Club to include women. That, until today, seems to prove a bridge too far.

A study just out spotlights the dismal situation:

60% of the top 10 companies in the Netherlands do not have a single woman in their Executive Committee.
Giants such as Shell, ING, Philips, Akzo Nobel and Heikeken don't have a single woman on their boards.

Even worse?
Of the 4 women who do actually sit on Executive Committees, 3 are in line/operational roles, 1 in a staff function. The harsh truth of this reality? One women alone on a board will never have enough weight in the group to affect change. There is a rule that says you need 3 people in a group of 10 to affect change.
3 in 10. Not 1 in 10. So those 4 women are in effect, "invisible" committee members: present but unable to make a fundamental difference.

This situation needs to change. Urgently.
Today, more than 50% of all college graduates are women.
Research has proven that gender-balanced companies perform better than those who's boards consist only of men and that the current economic crisis probably wouldn't have been as fundamental had more women held executive positions, participated in more key decision-making.

Women need to be encouraged to participate at strategic level. Our future - not just women's future - depends on it.